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Czech utility company observes sulphur hexafluoride leaks with thermal imaging

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FLIR Systems has published a new application note that describes how the FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging  camera enables Czech utility company - CEPS a.s. to detect SF6 leaks helping avoid breakdowns and ensuring the continuity of their power distribution network.

Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) is used as an insulating gas in the distribution of high voltage electrical power. It allows substation equipment to be more compact. However, SF6 is also a very potent greenhouse gas. Leaks in this equipment therefore not only endanger the continuity of power distribution but also have consequences for the environment.

As SF6 is colorless, odorless and not flammable, it is nearly impossible to detect with the naked eye. Traditionally CEPS a.s had used gas sniffers to detect SF6 leaks from the circuit breakers, current transformers, voltage transformers and gas insulated substations in their electrical distribution network.  While the technique offered detection of leaks at parts per million (ppm) concentration levels, measurement was only at a single point and the sniffer needed to be within millimetres of the leak location to detect the SF6. Consequently leaks were easy to miss.

During their evaluation CEPS a.s. found that the FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging camera could detect small SF6 leaks from six meters distance, allowing it to be used safely while the equipment was under charge. As a result no downtime was required for the inspection. Additionally the FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging camera offered the ability to scan an entire piece of equipment in one go making leak detection a faster and more certain process.

Lightweight, compact and ergonomically designed the FLIR GF306 optical gas imaging camera is designed as a portable leak detection device. The FLIR GF306 contains a highly sensitive detector that visualizes gases in the 10.3 – 10.7 micrometer waveband. Consequently the FLIR GF306 is able to visualize and pinpoint gas leaks of SF6 without the need to de-energize high-voltage equipment or shut down the operation. The portable camera also greatly improves operator safety, by detecting emissions at a safe distance, and helps to protect the environment by tracing leaks of environmentally harmful gases such as SF6.  SF6 has a global warming potential 24,000 times higher than CO2 emissions - more than any other greenhouse gas. Early detection and repair of leaks is a contribution that electric power plants can make to protect the environment.